Behind the Bar: August 2016
August 1, 2016 @ 12:00am
In the spirit of Virginia Craft Beer Month, On Tap caught up with the entrepreneurial minds behind two Northern Virginia breweries and one biergarten that have opened within the past year. Learn what’s on tap at these area locations.
Bar Manager/Brand Ambassador at Caboose Brewing Company in Vienna, Va.
Meth Gunasinghe: Having a brewery right off the W&OD Trail allows bikers and runners alike to stop in for a quick rehydrating pint and bite to eat. As the W&OD used to be a railroad, our name “Caboose” pays homage to the history of the town of Vienna.
OT: How have you helped shape the current craft beer lineup?
MG: I’ve had the pleasure of putting together some fun casks with our brewers. I also love promoting the great beer that is available in Virginia, and I’ve featured some great brews from our friends as our guest taps.
OT: What makes Caboose’s 15-barrel system unique to the world of Virginia brewing?
MG: We have eight 15-barrel brite tanks that are stacked two high, which allowed us to build up and maximize our space. Having four 30-barrel fermenters allows us to double batch our brews, so that we have plenty of beer both for in-house consumption and to push out into distribution through our distributor, Ferment Nation.
OT: What standout brews is Caboose offering this summer?
MG: Our Half-Wit has made its return this summer – a Belgian witbier brewed with coriander, grains of paradise, and sweet and bitter orange peel. We are also bringing back our Cucumber Saison. We take our house Sidetrack Saison and brew it with fresh cucumbers and celery seeds, which adds more of a spicy depth.
OT: As a member of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, is Caboose doing anything special for Virginia Craft Beer Month?
MG: We [will release] our bourbon barrel-aged Vanilla Hobo Stout [this month]. It’s an employee favorite, and the bourbon character will only add more depth and complexity to our Imperial Stout.
The Caboose Car Hopper IPA
It’s an aesthetically pleasing beer, from the nose to its light amber color, and it just tastes great.
Caboose Brewing Company: 520 Mill St. NE, Vienna, VA; www.caboosebrewing.com
Founder of New District Brewing Company in Arlington, Va.
On Tap: New District holds the title as the only distribution brewery in Arlington for the past 100 years. How did you pick your location?
Mike Katrivanos: This area is home, and aside from that, we thought it was a shame that folks from Arlington couldn’t choose to drink locally produced beer in stores and restaurants. We believe this strong heritage ties the community together, and are happy to be taking part in the revival of this great tradition.
OT: You’ve made a pretty huge shift from playing in alt-rock band Sematic to running your own brewery. How has life changed for you guys since opening New District?
MK: I loved the band and the artistry that it represented. I graduated from George Mason [with a degree] in Electrical Engineering, so it was a perfect harmony to balance my love of artistry and engineering. We are always creating beverage art that’s on display, and engineering the best way to convey that art to the public.
OT: Tell us about a few seasonal beers available this summer.
MK: We are very excited about our Honeysuckle Hefeweizen, our 1821 Dark, our Imperial Stout and our first English sour. The Honeysuckle Hefeweizen was a coordinated effort with over 30 volunteers picking fresh honeysuckle flowers, and our bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout features three different varieties of roasted and black malt.
OT: Are there any New District brews that you feel truly embody the spirit of Virginia craft beer?
K: One thing Virginia craft brewers pride themselves on is their originality. The beer that I feel is most original is our 1821 Ale. It is a lightly-colored, golden-style Belgian saison featuring ingredients from our family village in Greece. It’s a truly unique beer, and to our knowledge, we are the only brewery in the world using these ingredients.
The 1821 is the first beer in the world to use these ingredients, which are otherwise unknown in the traditional craft beer palate.
New District Brewing Company: 2709 S Oakland St. Arlington, VA;www.newdistrictbrewing.com
Paymon Hadjiesmaeiloo & Matt Rofougaran
Managing Partners at Tysons’ Biergarten in Tysons, Va.
On Tap: Tysons’ Biergarten just opened its doors in June. How’s everything going so far?
Paymon Hadjiesmaeiloo & Matt Rofougaran: So far, so great! With our 10,000-square-foot patio and three floors of indoor space, our main focus is on creating an oasis for the community to come together, enjoy each other’s company and sample some of our amazing beers.
OT: What can customers expect from the rebrand of the lower level, which focuses on American craft beers?
PH & MR: Think of it as an exclusive underground bar. We carry 100 top quality craft beers from all across America, with half of them brewed locally. It’s a cool speakeasy setting with [hints of] Americana. Sitting downstairs will make you feel like you’ve been shot back 90 years to an old speakeasy, except we have 100 bottles and cans along with nine taps.
OT: Walk us through your Virginia lineup. How did you select which beers to feature from the state?
MR: If it’s local, I try to support it. I am a huge mom-and-pop kind of guy. Almost every beer we have here I have personally tasted and chosen for our customers. In the past two years, I have gone to over 50 breweries and taken notes and pictures. Our list is comprised of beers that my friends and I get excited about drinking when we go out to places.
OT: Which Virginia brews on tap are most popular thus far?
PH & MR: Well, we constantly change our kegs. But I think the keg to kick the fastest would be anything from Ocelot Brewing Company. We try to keep one keg from them at all times.
OT: Will you have any special events at the biergarten during the dog days of summer?
PH & MR: We will have doggy happy hours. Also, we are planning on [hosting] music festivals and wine tastings, bourbon and beer nights, and other fun events for the community to enjoy together.
Paymon & Matt’s Pick
Port City Monumental IPA
It’s one of the best IPAs that we carry, and it was brewed in our backyard in Alexandria, Va.
Tysons’ Biergarten: 8346 Leesburg Pike, Tysons, VA; www.tysonsbiergarten.com
Photos: Tracy Conoboy and Trent Johnson